Supreme Court Lets Stand Texas Ruling That Could Undermine Marriage Equality

Supreme Court Lets Stand Texas Ruling That Could Undermine Marriage Equality

In that decision, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling that said spouses of gay and lesbian public employees are entitled to government-subsidized marriage benefits, and it unanimously ordered a trial court to reconsider the case. While that case was going through the state court system, Obergefell (the U.S. Supreme Court case making gay marriage the law of the land) happened. This lets the Texas ruling stand, and the Harris County court will consider the matter. "Today's abnegation by the nation's highest court opens the door for an onslaught of challenges to the rights of LGBTQ people at every step".

The justice said although Floyd's framing of the arguments in his petition undercut his request for review, in any other context "courts reviewing claims in circumstances like these must be steadfast in identifying, investigating, and correcting for improper bias in the jury selection process". The decision, the Texas Supreme Court said, does not necessarily require the state of Texas or its cities to extend the same benefits to state or municipal employees in same-sex marriages that it does to other married state and municipal employees.

The Houston case began in 2013 when Jack Pidgeon, a local Christian pastor, and Larry Hicks, an accountant, sued the city after Annise Parker, a Democrat who was its first openly gay mayor, gave municipal spousal benefits such as health insurance and life insurance to same-sex married couples. The city appealed the case, which was denied by the US Supreme Court.

A state appeals court responded by allowing Houston to offer spousal benefits to same-sex couples, saying the ruling ended the controversy in the city benefits case.

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Lawyers for Pidgeon and Hicks told the state Supreme Court that the Obergefell ruling should be interpreted narrowly and did not require states to give taxpayer subsidies to same-sex couples any more than the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion required states to subsidize abortions.

While it's a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't knock down the Texas Supreme Court ruling today, this is hardly over.

The district court had not taken action on the lawsuit while the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was pending, but that should change in the coming weeks, Saenz said.

It was June of this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against an Arkansas law forbidding same-sex couples from being listed on a child's birth certificate. That led the 14th Court of Appeals to allow the same-sex spousal benefits, under the argument that Obergefell had settled it.

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